This unintentionally hilarious news story at The Observer reveals a great deal about the mindset of the urban, ecologically aware types that write for that newspaper:
Soaring food prices are threatening to inflict widespread ecological damage on the countryside, as farmers abandon environmentally friendly schemes that have improved much of the landscape.
It is a matter of debate whether these schemes have improved or harmed the landscape: such an observation has as much to do with a certain aesthetic taste as anything else. For years, policymakers have thrown vast gobs of taxpayers’ money to discourage farmers, such as in my native Suffolk, from growing crops like wheat, barley, soybeans, beans and so on. Now that the price of wheat has skyrocketed, encouraged by such developments as biofuels and rapid growth in emerging market economies, the economics of “set aside”, as the daft policy is known, looks completely indefensible. So farmers are acting as entrepreneurs should in the face of rising prices for their produce: they are growing more crops. If that means that land that had been set aside for cute little meadows is now being ploughed up and sown with wheat, well, that is just too bad. Do the Observer journalists argue that there should not be some change in land usage at a time of rapidly rising food prices? There is no point in bashing the current government for such rising prices – I don’t think even the most fanatical Gordon Brown hater thinks he is to blame for this – if farmers are not allowed to exploit market forces in the way they should have been allowed to do all the way along.
For what it is worth, the Suffolk farmer’s son in me rather objects to the countryside being regarded by the Guardianista classes – many of whom have no idea about husbandry – as a glorified park for them to ramble around in. It is, as this article reminds us, primarily a place of work, where food is produced. It is sometimes useful to be reminded that the landscape has been moulded by the hand of Man. I personally rather like to see large, golden fields of wheat. But then I’m kind of strange in that way.